On December 28, the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation included individuals in the register of media outlets — foreign agents for the first time. The updated list is published on the agency's website.
The register of foreign agents includes correspondent of 7x7 from Karelia Sergei Markelov, editor-in-chief of Pskovskaya Guberniya Denis Kamalyagin, human rights advocate Lev Ponomaryov, journalist of Radio Svoboda and MBKh Media Lyudmila Savitskaya, and performance artist Daria Apakhonchich.
“I think that I was labeled for being active as a journalist. I am not sure what I should do about it. I have just found it out. I have almost not contributed to anywhere for several months, I was busy with family things,” Sergei Markelov told 7x7.
Denis Kamalyagin, the editor-in-chief of the Pskovskaya Guberniya Newspaper, was also surprised by the news that he had been labeled as an individual — foreign agent. He added that he had two supposed reasons for that.
“My main version is that I was considered a foreign agent, because I had collaborated with the Sever.Realii Media Outlet (labeled as a foreign agent on 15.11.2019). But at the time the law was ordained, they did not pay me any fees. If they [the Ministry of Justice] came down on me because of Realii, then our other colleagues are going to be labeled — there will be a „pack“ of foreign agents. The second version is that the domain name of the Pskovskaya Guberniya Newspaper's website is registered to me as an individual. Also, I am listed as the founding individual in the submitted application for registration of the newspaper as a media outlet. Anyway, I find it all very funny, of course,” Kamalyagin told 7x7.
The journalist noted that, most likely, he would go to court to get evidence of his foreign funding.
Journalist of Radio Svoboda and MBKh Media Lyudmila Savitskaya told 7x7 that she had been talking via Skype when the information about her inclusion in the register of individuals — foreign agents had appeared. She says that the messengers on her computer began to ring at some point, she ended the conversation and saw her name in the news. According to the journalist, in such a "cunning" way — by labeling her as a foreign agent — the state "has shown her respect and given a New Year's gift." Savitskaya is sure that it is no coincidence that two journalists from Pskov Oblast were included in the register of foreign agents. She suggested that it could be related to the incident on December 24, when a military man involuntarily had fired a gun of Airborne Assault Vehicle 4 at a mall within the town.
“There are several organizations in the region that call themselves regional media, but they are actually not. When something happens, [independent] Pskovskaya Guberniya and journalists of federal media outlets, living in Pskov Oblast, react. Apparently, we have become too loud, uncomfortable, and annoying. The regional media had their tongue deeply hidden when a missile hit the mall. Denis [Kamalyagin, the editor-in-chief of Pskovskaya Guberniya] covered the situation first, and then my report came out. I think that was what finished them. I think that even before that, when some significant story got to the federal level, they felt really ill. The missile may have been the final straw, after which they decided to silence us. But that is not going to happen,” Lyudmila Savitskaya told 7x7.
Pavel Chikov, the head of the Agora International Human Rights Organization, announced that the organization had taken Savitskaya and Kamalyagin under protection. Agora's lawyer will represent them before the court on a complaint about being included into the register.
In December, the State Duma passed a bill that restricts the work of NGOs and allows labeling almost any citizen as a foreign agent. Individuals are recognized as foreign agents if they get financing from abroad, including material or organizational and methodological assistance from foreign authorities, organizations and citizens. The second condition for being labeled as a foreign agent is participation in political activities or collecting information in the military and technical field.
According to the law, individuals — foreign agents will not be able to work in the state and municipal service, as well deal with official secrets. According to human rights advocated, there will be fewer civic activists in Russia after the introduction of the bill, and some regional human rights organizations will cease their activities. Learn more about the new law in 7x7’s piece.